Account Based Sales is the future for forward-looking progressive companies that want to gain more sales and make their workload more varied and effective.
It helps a sales organization to develop their business in a way that makes sense. It lowers cost and increases sales, which together make a huge positive impact on the balance sheet of any company. It is the holy grail of being able to spend less while making more. But Account Based Sales Development is still in its infancy. There are only a few successful companies out there that are able to deliver this and they are standing out from the rest of the market. Their results are being looked at and analyzed by others. And the results are staggering. The Account Based Sales techniques change the game today and forever more. Any company that is able to nurture relationships with clients to generate big accounts and generates more sales will succeed in any business climate.
Account Based Sales is designed to take away many of the problems that a sales company faces. It allows you to connect with the right clients without using the shotgun or cold calling approached that hasn’t produced great results in the past. It also allows measurement and accountability of tasks so that your company can see what you are putting in (in terms of time and resources) and what you are able to get out. This balance will give you the ability to look at the situation you want, plan out the steps that will get you there and then measure the success of it all in the end. Selling has just got into a position where you can see exactly that is going on by using the Account Based Sales system. In this chapter, we will pull together a way of setting all of this up to be a success in a step by step way so that you can implement this in your own organization to go from where you are to succeed in as short a period of time as you can.
Stage 1 – You must prepare and organize your team
Change in any business can be a scary prospect for all involved. To just go into a sales meeting and announce that you are moving to an Account Based Sales approach will do nothing but put people’s backs up and create confusion. As with any change in any part of life, the best way to go about it is to plan and prepare properly before making any moves towards effecting the change. The planning part will be something that you do as you read through this book. The book will help you to think about what you want to achieve, who you need to achieve it and how you will set about getting things done.
But the preparation actually involves the people in your company. The preparation will involve you making sure that you are able to effectively communicate the ideas behind Account Based Sale Development, how you are going to implement them on the ground in your company and selling the benefits of what it can bring. A new startup company will have no problems in implementing an Account Based Sales technique from the very start because the sales team will have never known anything other than that in the company. But with an existing company and an existing sales team, there may be a little friction to new ideas. It is your job to be able to present the benefits of Account Based Sales to the team in order to gain buy-in.
You will find that the best way to go about this is to speak to people individually and collectively on more than one occasion. A big launch is a good idea so that you can present all the ideas you have and all the benefits it can bring to everyone at once. This stops rumors from happening and allows you to get everyone both involved in and excited about the new development. But a launch needs to be then backed up. The ideal suggestion is that you conduct workshops in smaller groups to discuss the changes and what they mean to people. This will be an ideal forum for people to express any concerns that they have and allow you to wok though things together. After this individual one on one discussion will help to deliver specific messages to each and every member of the team. As you all work together towards the goal then you will be able to talk to each other freely about what is happening and to see the progress that is being made.
Remember the benefits of Account Based Sales as you talk to each member of the team. It is worth repeating them here and repeating them to yourself on a regular basis as you set about changing the way your teamwork-
- It boosts sales
- It lowers costs
- It increases the average contract size
- It brings in a qualified pipeline
- It gives quality leads
- It is an organized and professional way to do business
- It works on personal connections
- It makes things happen more quickly
- It is a measurable way of doing business
- As well as being measurable, it is accountable
- It allows the sales team (and others) to focus on what they do best
- It protects your reputation
All of these benefits are not just benefits to the company but they will also have a positive effect on every member of the team. Too often change is delivered in terms of what it will mean for the company and for the customer. It makes those on the end of change (in this case the sales team) feel as though they have not been involved and they have not been considered when making these decisions. The benefits to the individual should be emphasized so that every member of the team can feel a part of what is going on. This will increase participation and get the best chance of buy-in from all the members of the team. When you want to deliver success then you need all of your team to pull together to achieve it. Let’s take a look at the individual roles involved.
Prepare your marketing team
Their role will change in terms of who they are targeting and how they will go about it. If you are currently operating a traditional marketing operation then your marketing team may well be spending a lot of their time on developing emails and marketing materials to generate a response. They will now change significantly to developing the right relationships with the right people. In the next part of this chapter we will look at targeting but once a target is established then it will be the role of the marketing team to connect with the people identified in the target account, nurture these relationships to generate future big accounts and a high level of business.
Prepare your sales development reps
Your sales reps will already have good contacts in some of your target companies so they will be able to help the marketing team get linked to all the people that matter. Remember that you will be looking for anything from five or more people in your target company so the pooled resources of your existing team are valuable here. Your sales development reps will probably have to fall into a role above or a role below. Currently, they will more than likely be hitting the phones or answering inbound calls. The inbound calls will still be necessary and you don’t want to completely discard all of your smaller accounts but you will need fewer sales development reps when you move to an Account Based Sales approach.
Prepare your account executives
Your account executives will now be looking to retain the big accounts that you have and get as much value as they can from them. By getting the value it doesn’t mean necessarily trying to sell more. Although this will probably happen, we are thinking about making sure the customer is happy and seeing what other solutions you can provide. A big account will require an account executive to be completely dedicated to that company to ensure that they have a single point of contact and get the service level they require. Being dedicated to one account will mean that the account executive can deliver better service levels and retain this lucrative client for longer than ever before. These are the accounts that will generate a big income and profit level for your company so they deserve your best account executives.
Transparency is the only way to go when working towards implementing an Account Based Sales approach. You should set up the details including the timeframe to launch in places such as the company intranet so that all can see the progress being made and what is required o each team member and each department to get to where you need to be. Regular and effective communication in the form of emails will also help to keep the change fresh in the minds of the whole team and ensure that it is delivered in a smooth and effective manner. Change can be scary but by keeping everyone in the loop you can take away a lot of the fear factor and help people to cope with it all.
You will currently have a structure in your company and in your teams that suits the way you are working now. This may well have come about over years of operating and will be something that you need to review as you look forward to implementing an Account Based Sales approach for your future sales development. Your team will currently be geared to operating on a contact level basis. They will be geared to speaking to one individual at a time and trying to get that individual to buy from you. We have already seen that this is unlikely to work because of the way that big companies are structured in the modern day.
We have seen that a company is likely to need five or more people to sign off on any deal so that one to one relationship does not have the value that it once had. You now need to switch your team to think about accounts rather than individuals. Think about where you need your individuals and what you now want them to be doing. Several contacts in your target company will need to be nurtured so you will probably want several people in your company to do that work. When we look at targeting later in this chapter we can see how using already established contacts will help to smooth this process and make it all happen much more quickly.
Being creative helps you here. Your team wants to engage in the process and you need to make the change interesting and stimulating. Rewards for people hitting the early targets can change the way that your whole team looks at the way Account Based Sales develops your company. Gamification of the targets can also make it something that the whole team can get behind and buy into. The more fun you make it then the better results you will get as people engage with the whole process and deliver their results to gain their rewards.
You may get some of this wrong. Don’t be afraid to make the wrong decisions for the right reasons. You don’t have to set anything you do in stone because you can come back later and make changes that put things right. A large part of what you are doing here is speaking to people on a regular basis and making sure things are working well.
The lines of communication don’t stop when the Account Based Sales program is launched. They open up even more. You need to have regular meetings with individuals, teams and the whole company to triumph the progress that is being made and to answer any questions or iron out any issues. The whole process is driven by the open and honest communication with all parties involved to be the facilitator that makes all of this happen.
In summary – plan out what it is that you want to achieve. Prepare your team by communicating the changes that may need to be made and the benefits of taking on an Account Based Sales program. You need to prepare the different parts of your sales and marketing team so they know what is now expected of them. Keep the lines of communication open before, during and after the launch of the Account Based Sales approach.
Stage 2 – You need to identify your target accounts and pre-qualify them
The most crucial aspect of using an Account Based Sales Development system for your company is to know the actual accounts that you want to secure. The whole way this approach works is by deciding which accounts will make the biggest difference to your company. The high-value accounts that you want to achieve can be identified through a series of discussions and a lot of research to see which accounts might make the biggest difference to your company, an approximate value of that account and the people that you will need to target in order to get that account on your books.
You will speak to members of your team about the accounts that they would most like to secure and you can start to build a picture of those accounts that would help your company on its road to success. A lot of these discussions can be had in the meetings that you implemented in stage 1, as you get together a list of ideal clients that will change the fortunes of your company and deliver all of the benefits that you know an Account Based Sales approach will bring you. But a lot of this will need to be structured and formalized at some stage rather than just a list of great clients. To get together the perfect list (or as near to perfect as you can generate) you will want to look at the key attributes that an ideal client will have. You want a client that is-
- A high-value client
- A client that will generate repeat orders
- A client that is looking for a long-term relationship
- A client that is active in your industry
- A client that is not tied to another long-term deal
- A client that you can work with to deliver quality
- A client where you already have made some contacts
You may look to add some attributes to your perfect client based on what you do and what your experience is. Once you start to develop this list of attributes that make up a perfect client then you can list the ideas you and your team came up with to match them against what you ideally want. Your results will look something like this-
|Client A||Client B||Client C||Client D||Client E||
So as you build the two lists they actually can come together to give you the best place to start when you are targeting. The first list is all the clients that you and your team came up with when looking for potential targets. The second list is all the attributes you have identified from what would be your ideal client. Once you are able to cross-reference the two then you have some work to do on determining the best place to start when searching for new clients that will launch your Account Based Sales Account program. It is by using a structured approach to the way that you implement your new program that will help to determine the success you get from it.
For example, if you did not do the required research and just went for client A because they were the biggest one then you would end up wasting money in the short term because they are tied in with another provider. In the longer term this tie-in will expire but currently, you are unable to draw them away from another supplier and on to you. So you will be spending your time, money and energy in trying to secure a contract that you are just unable to secure at present.
When you launch a new initiative then the eyes of your company will be on you. The success of what you do will be discussed at the water cooler every day by all parts of the organization. People want to know whether you are succeeding or not. This scrutiny magnifies the sales function because increasing sales means more job security for the whole company while declining sales might mean a problem for everyone. You want to be able to report the early successes that will get everyone behind the project and get the support of every part of your company. You want to be the success story and not the one that is looked upon as a failure.
If you have not been in the industry long enough to draw up a list of clients then you will need to go out and do some market research. All the information you can gather here will help. You want to know the big accounts that your competitors have on their books and other similar accounts that might already be out there. You can do this research yourself or take a look at hiring a specialist company to do the research and produce reports for you. Either way, it is a valuable investment of time or money that will give you the best accounts to aim for when you are looking to launch your Account Based Sales program and be a success. The results of your research can be fed into a basic chart like the one above so you can start to decide which the best clients for you are.
Meeting up with potential customers to discuss their needs is another great way to determine who might be of most benefit to you. Use your existing contacts to generate meetings where you can see what a potential client wants and decide how you are able to fulfill their needs. It also helps to develop the relationships with the people of influence in a face to face basis to augment any contact you have made online in places such as LinkedIn.
The more quality contacts that you are able to make then the more chance you have of making this a success. Meet people in their office, invite them to meet you in yours, go to trade shows and meet at conferencing events. The more contact with key players that you have then the more likely it is that they will choose you as their next supplier of whatever goods or services you provide.
Taking the time to pre-qualify the clients and make sure that they are the ones for your company to target is a worthwhile activity. You want to know that you are looking for the clients that will bring you in the best chance of success and the most money. All the benefits of using an Account Based Sales Development approach should be right at the front of your mind all the time so you can clearly see who you are going to target and what their business will mean to your company and your profit levels.
Stage 3 – Collect crucial information about your target accounts
Although we are looking at this on a step by step basis, you will have already started to gather some of this information in the last two stages. You will have information about certain companies or certain contacts within those companies from your existing team. You will be able to add more information from meeting with people and pre-qualifying the companies that you are going to start with first. But what you want to do is build a full picture of what your target companies and your target people are about. This again is going to require a lot of research about the companies you want to speak to and the people in those companies that will make the decisions.
Once you have carried out your identification and pre-qualification of your target companies then you will have a list of priority targets that your team needs to work through. What they are looking for is the way that the company operates. Research is needed to find out as much relevant information as you can about this target company. There will be lots of elements to the company that you will need to get a fix on. You and your team will need to brainstorm the different aspects that you will have to research in order to get the best idea about your target comp0any and how you can approach them. Consider things such as-
- Number of departments
- Whether things are signed off at department level or at a higher level
- The size of the account
- The different products or services that they need
- Who they are currently supplied by
- What deal they have
- How long they have been served by that supplier
- Whether they are looking to move
- What might persuade them to move
- Whether the services or products they need are all covered by your company
There will be more questions that you need to consider and these will be dependent on your company, what you sell and who your target is. When you weigh all of these things up you might have up to 30 questions that you want answers to for up to 10 target companies. So you can see from this that there will be quite a lot that you need to consider. Gathering all of the information that you need might take a little time and as a company, you must aim to get all of this together as soon as you can. This is where you can rely on the information that you already have.
Once you have reached this stage in the process you will have already identified the people in your company that has dealt with your targets before, the contacts they have and you may well have spoken to people in your target company as part of your pre-qualification checks. You have to double check the information you have and then set about filling in the blanks in your knowledge.
This then leads to the next step in the process. You have already identified the companies that you want to speak to and pre-qualified them to make sure that they are a viable proposition. From there you have drawn up a list of target companies in order of preference. The next part of the process is to identify the right individuals in these companies and start to collate the information you need to them.
Target individuals in those companies
The people that you want to speak to are the next logical step in the process of getting your Account Based Sales Development program off the ground. You want to be able to get to all the key decision makers in your target company and build strong relationships with them to help you secure that contract in the future. Remember that these big contracts can be worth a lot of money to your company so they are worth a little time and investment to make sure you have all the details you need to secure their business.
Forging a long-term relationship with a big company can make a huge difference to your company. Remember back to all the benefits that a big account can bring to your company. The effort will be worthwhile as you move to attracting more and bigger clients with high-value contracts.
Again you can get a lot of the information you need here from the work that you and your team have carried out so far. The information and contacts that you have gathered together up to this point will again (in the same way as you worked through your target companies) provide a framework for information and you will need to double check and fill in the blanks.
So at this stage, you need to identify the people that will make or break your attempts to get the contract secured. This will come through from your research and the way that you are able to speak to people. Make sure that you document the right people and set about making contact with them in the ways that you can. Get in touch on social media (especially LinkedIn) and then try to find events or set up meetings where you can meet face to face. The more human contact you get with the key influencers then the better chance you have of being able to secure the deal when it comes to negotiation time.
Once you have started to piece together all you need to know about the target company then you can get started with some of the finer details, such as-
- How many signatures they need for any contracts to be signed off
- The actual people that need to be in agreement
- What department(s) they work in
- How long they have been with the company
- Whether your company already has links with them
- Whether people in your company are already in contact with them
It is by identifying the people that are involved that you can start to drill down to the level that will make a real difference to you and your sales team. This is where the absolute targeting of an Account Based Sales method will produce the accountability and measurability of inputs that we looked at in the previous chapter. This is where tasks are handed out and people are given specific contacts to make. This is where you take things from the ad hoc to the specific. Your team needs to know the importance of being accurate and working to tight deadlines here. You need everyone on board.
This is one of the main reasons that Account Based Sales works so it is worth looking again at the benefits of this approach. You have clearly identified the people that you need to target in order to get your company in favor of the big accounts that will make a difference to your company. So you are able to produce specific and accountable roles for members of your team.
You have a good idea of what it is exactly that you will need to do in order to make contact with these clients and nurture your relationship so you are able to measure your resources. This means that you can count the pennies out and back in again but it also means that you can get better results by spending less time and money on attracting new clients – the high-value clients that you crave. You no longer have to market your products or services in a shotgun manner because you know who you are targeting, you have a very good idea that they can be persuaded to move over to you and you spend accordingly.
No more are the days when you try to hit every possible customer in the vain hope that one or two might come over to you. The Account Based Sales approach means that you spend in all the right places trying to secure all the right accounts. You take your marketing from hit and miss to hit after hit because you know all you can about the people you are targeting. The next step is to take everything you have gathered so far and get organized.
Stage 4 – Get yourself organized to become a success
You have now got to the stage where you need to start taking some actions. All the information that you have collated so far will help you to move forward but you are probably at this stage now thinking –
‘When is the action going to start?’
Well, that time is now. You have come to the point where you act upon all of the hard work that you have put together so far. Your information, your contacts, your meetings and your market research all come together here. This is when you take things from the planning stage to the implementation stage. But as with everything in this book, you need to get organized to be able to make all the right moves and get from a pile of information to some real actionable objectives and to get your team working on securing the accounts that you have identified.
Up to this point, we have looked at things in terms of meetings, ideas, charts and pieces of paper. But to get yourself organized to keep in touch with scores of individuals over a group of target companies as well as managing the customers you already have. We will look in some detail at the tools that you might need in order to achieve this in the next chapter but for what we want to explore here we will look at what you need to organize and why the organization will help you to get ahead. There are a lot of relationships that many members of your team need to help manage all at once so having the right level of organization is crucial to your success.